M.C.L. Oldhoff

Promovendus / PhD Candidate
ST Beliefs

Summary of my research project

Although the soul causes uneasiness among contemporary theologians, the word is consciously used in contemporary language. An important reason for the return of soul-language might be the ability of the word to express who the human being is in a manner that is more closely connected to the subjectivity of a person and the longing for transcendence than the language of the natural sciences. This current use of the term soul can be compared to the way in which the soul is considered in contemporary theology. Which concepts of soul are taken into consideration in traditional and contemporary Western theology and for what reason? The various meanings of ‘soul’ in the Western cultural context and theology are examined and evaluated in order to reflect on the ways in which we can speak of the human being in relation to God. Since the soul is often a signifier of the immaterial aspect of the human being and sometimes even considered as something ‘divine’, it is an appropriate locus for systematic theological reflection upon the way in in which the human being is distinct from and related to God. 

Part I consists of an analysis of the meanings of soul in both the Western cultural context and theology. In part II Paul’s pneumatological anthropology is exegetically explored. Paul’s approach provides a model for critical reflection upon the various concepts of soul, because Paul had a perspective upon the soul in his context. The content of his thought will be translated into assertions that will serve as criteria to analyse the various ways of speaking about the soul. Part III develops a systematic theological reflection upon human life as distinct from and related to God by using the assertions of Paul’s pneumatological anthropology to shed light upon the various meanings of soul.

This research is part of the research programme of Beliefs: Transforming Life, sub-group Dogmatics: Life: Divine and Human


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